January 27, 2016: A Lot of Room for Improvement

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If the cast of The Wizard of Oz were somehow magically thrown into a cyclocross race, I’d be the Cowardly Lion. Looking back on all the races I’ve done, my weaknesses stand out like a guy wearing a pink tutu and feather boa during a non-singlespeed race. There are parts of some races where I absolutely stunk it up. The hecklers on the course are sometimes kind (“Good idea to run that log, Willie Nelson, instead of risking a crash!”) but sometimes brutally correct (“Come on you pussy! Every one else is bunny-hopping that log, even Julie Lockhart!”). Now, for the record, Julie is 75 years old, has won more National Championships in all sorts of cycling disciplines than even she can count, is one of my true heroes but at this point in her life, chooses to walk and gab with spectators during a race when she doesn’t feel like racing hard or if the course is too difficult.

The bottom line is that there is always room for improvement. I make a lot of mistakes out on the course, most everyone does. Realizing what your weaknesses are is probably one of the most important things you can do to improve and move a step closer to your goal. Strengths are great but strengths are strengths because they’re probably something that comes easy to you. Weaknesses hold the key to success. I’m a decent climber on a bike but when it comes to descending, not so much. I’ve been known to walk sketchy sections when most everyone else is riding them. Any improvements I can make as a climber are miniscule compared to any improvements I can make as a descender. The time differences are huge, especially in cyclocross. If I had been a better technical descender at Nationals this year, I would have been on the podium.

I did 37 cyclocross races in the 2015 season and stood on 14 podiums; 5 of them were on the top step. By most measures, this was a great cyclocross season for me. What would it have taken to have 25 podiums and 10 wins? That is where focusing and working on my biggest challenges and problem areas in the next year come in.

As soon as the going gets tough, I wuss out and ride super-conservatively. I don’t often take the tough lines; I usually take the easiest way through roots or deep mud or around slippery corners even if it means conceding a second or two. I just lack the confidence that other riders seem to have. My guiding philosophy is that I’d rather finish the race than crash out and possibly jeopardize my season. Granted, sometimes this approach works in my favor but sometimes it costs me a few positions. This is especially obvious at the start when bikes, bodies and elbows are fighting for every inch going into the hole shot. At Nationals this year, I threw all caution to the wind and, starting from the second row, managed to be in the top 3 spots at the hole shot. This was a huge psychological boost for me during the remaining 40 minutes of the race.

This is the year when I plan to do a lot more mountain biking and concentrate on improving these skills. Who knows, maybe I’ll even come to like mountain biking?

 

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January 22, 2016: Introduction

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Every day is a chance to move in the direction of a personal goal, to get closer or farther away. You have a goal, right? You don’t? I do and it has been screaming at me for the last five years. But this blog isn’t entirely about my goal; it’s also about yours. Do you want to get in great shape? Live longer? Lose some weight? Run a marathon? Look great in a bathing suit? Be the best that you can be? Since I’m going to be writing about the process that might one day allow me to achieve my goal, my hope is that it might inspire you to identify your goal and then do something every day to get closer to it.

My goal is very specific – someday I want to win a national championship in my age class in the cycling discipline called cyclocross. There, I said it and there it is in black and white. I haven’t succeeded yet but this year I came closer than I ever have. I came into my race in Asheville, North Carolina at the Biltmore Estate on January 6, 2016, in really good shape but not with the complete set of skills that I needed to win. I came in 6th place out of 52 finishers. While I was happy to place this well, it was not my goal to come in 6th. What will it take next year or the year after that or the next ten or twenty years to achieve this goal? What will it take for you to achieve your goal? Discipline, sacrifice, flexibility, a sense of humor, not taking yourself too seriously, dedication, perspective and a brutally honest assessment of your lifestyle and the choices you make? I guess it depends on what your goal is but these are the words that come to mind when I decide how to structure my time day in and day out.

What will follow are periodic posts talking about what I did today or this week to take another step, however small (since I think success is measured in hundreds or thousands of tiny steps), towards this goal. I hope that you find some relevance to your life, to your goals, and can achieve your definition of success by filtering my experience through your own perception. Maybe I could inspire you. I’m inspired by almost everyone around me – some positively, some negatively – to make the decisions I make. Let’s see where this journey can take us.